15,600-year old footprint discovered in southern Chile

Reuters: Oldest human footprint found in the Americas confirmed in Chile

A 15,600-year old footprint discovered in southern Chile is believed to be the oldest ever found in the Americas, according to researchers.

The footprint was first discovered in 2010 by a student at the Universidad Austral of Chile. Scientists then worked for years to rule out the possibility that the print may have belonged to some other species of animal, and to determine the fossil’s estimated age.

Karen Moreno, a paleontologist with the Universidad Austral who has overseen the studies, said researchers had also found bones of animals near the site, including those of primitive elephants, but determined that the footprint was evidence of human presence.

Moreno said this was the first evidence of humans in the Americas older than 12,000 years.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213572

Fifteen thousand years is a long time to have been in the Americas, and as I think it is believed people migrated there via Asia (and Alaska) it makes sense that the Americas were the last continent to be inhabited by humans. And they would have migrated southward, so would have arrived in Alaska well before they got to Chile.

But it is curious that such a large part of the world took so long to be inhabited by humans.

This compares to Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago

 

 

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35 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  27th April 2019

    This makes the Severn ones look modern.

    Reply
  2. Kimbo

     /  27th April 2019

    Is fascinating that settlement of what is now Chile was that far South from the land-bridge over what is now the Bering Strait.

    I think genetics and archaeology has falsified Thor Heyerdayl’s theory that the original Polynesians came from from South America. But the only incongruous piece of the puzzle is how the Polynesians acquired the sweet potato. Most likely is that they did indeed journey back and fro from the Americas. Why not? They eventually settled as far East as Hawaii and Rapanui/Easter Island starting maybe centuries before from the other side of the mighty Pacific in the Bismarck Archipelago…so there is nothing unexpected or extra difficult in extra journeys as far as they could go by outrigger canoe?

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  27th April 2019

      You have forgotten a major problem which a glance at google maps will tell you.
      The journey from Bismarck archipelago ( for instance )was via scattered islands and atolls which was part of their system of navigation.

      Easter island to the nearest island (Pitcairn) towards Tahiti is 1800 km.
      From Easter Island to the South American coast is 3600km. And there would have been good reasons Pitcairn was uninhabited before the Bounty mutineers arrived. May not have been known in polynesian navigation.

      As well there is some confusion there about the sweet potatoes that we use today , cultivars from the original found in South America and the actual variety of sweet potato used in Polynesia BEFORE european contact. Its more likely to be a type of yam from Asia
      Just because its still called kumara doesnt mean it was the original kumara.

      There is a separate school of research that has ‘found’ that the sweet potato arrived in polynesia long before humans did . Its too early to be definitive , science requiring replication and may be merely a line of enquiry
      https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04488-4

      Reply
      • Kimbo

         /  27th April 2019

        Cheers for that. Although it does still seem evident that the Polynesian ability to navigate improved, including traversing longer distances, the further East they travelled (south-west to NZ was the last part of the great migration, so an implementation of already-existing skills) . But ok, that potentially solves the problem of, thus far, no direct archeological evidence to confirm Polynesians reached the Americas.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  27th April 2019

          yes . navigation is a learned skill but also requires technology in boat building. As shown by Columbus he could navigate to North America – and back in 1492-and how extremely quickly in only 1520 Magellan was able to pass through the straits named after him and enter the ‘peaceful ocean’ ( Pacific) because their boats were capable of doing a journey like that ( resisting storms) and carry food stores and larger crew.
          There are some speculations that the medieval warm period was an enabler of pacific migrations which ended when the climate turned colder and stormier outside the basic polynesian tropical islands

          Reply
      • Duker

         /  27th April 2019

        We can see how older research 1977( before DNA) could construct various possibilities even from naming and ethobotany and reject others. later research of DNA could give a timeline by comparing DNA of culivars to discover whom is definitely connected to whom Much in the way the DNA of kiwis and moa now indicate completly different origins ( from the closest relative theory) – Madagascar and South America
        Abstract from Journal Of the Polynesian Society
        ‘It now appears that the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) originated in tropical America, spread to eastern Polynesia in prehistoric times, and reached New Guinea and Micronesia via two separate routes after the European discovery of America. The plant may or may not have got to Nuclear Polynesia or Island Melanesia before European exploration of that part of Oceania. Baegu oral literature, ethnobotany, taxonomic nomenclature and horticultural ethnography, however, make it seem unlikely that the sweet potato reached Malaita in the south-eastern Solomon Islands until after intensive European contact began in the 19th century, when it was imported by mission schoolboys or plantation hands.’

        http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document//Volume_86_1977/Volume_86%2C_No._4/The_sweet_potato_in_the_south-eastern_Solomons%2C_by_Harold_M._Ross%2C_p_521-530/p1

        Having the DNA of the actual kumara being cultivated at the time of Cooks arrival is the core problem.

        Reply
      • Griff.

         /  27th April 2019

        3600km. 15 Day voyage @ 10kmh.
        Canoe hulls with a high length to beam ratio easily beat the hull speed of displacement mono hull western boats which is 1.34 times the sq root of waterline in feet = speed in knots.
        20 meter mono hull speed is about 10 knots where as a canoe will be around 20 knots so very little power needed to sail at 10 kmh.
        The trip is easily possible in good conditions with a Polynesian voyaging canoe and the technology they had.
        Run down the westerly’s under 30 south and return on the trades.
        It only had to happen once. They were exploring the Pacific for generations .
        One boat misses it’s destination and voyages on until it hit Sth America then returns.
        There is more misplaced species suggesting voyaging between Polynesian and Sth America than just kumara .

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  27th April 2019

          Yes we know all that from oral traditions passed down……NOT.
          And the journey from Hawaii to the north american continent must have been easy by your calcs ( armchair navigator) 10km per hour was just below Cooks TOP speed.
          How many 1000s of years did it take before arrival in Tahiti area from say Tonga or Samoa. You say it should have taken a week or so and they had islands on the way.
          Stick to your navigation computer models on your desktop ( 10 km per hr and ignore the real world observations will ensure your predictions are always wrong.

          Reply
          • Griff.

             /  27th April 2019

            Umm dukes
            I hold a qualification in celestial navigation.
            You been out there?
            I have captained my own boat the 1000nm from here to Fiji and back including getting the category one certification you need to clear customs .
            https://www.yachtingnz.org.nz/racing/safety-regulations
            The difference between the speed potential of a 20m coal barge and a 20m voyaging cat can be found on any sailing forum.
            https://www.brighthubengineering.com/marine-history/83095-advantages-of-catamarans/
            Arm chair expert?
            look at your self .

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  27th April 2019

              Whats the material used for sails , to build hulls ( no fibreglass no nails limited strength of their ropes)
              What are prevailing winds currents in that area, any migratory birds heading to south america
              What was the food source ( no potatoes,short shelf life for sweet potatoes are less than 1 month maybe less for their cultivars) , drinking water ?
              Armchair navigator in a modern yacht with all its advantages uses hindsight and he thinks hes got the answer. Even the vikings only got across to North America via stepping stones of Iceland and Greenland ( when the climate was favourable , at the end of medieval warm period changed everything in Greenland for them)

            • Jacqueline

               /  27th April 2019

              If you ever need a sailor Griff…I promise not to flounce. Maybe wouldn’t puke either.

            • Griff.

               /  27th April 2019

              Jesus
              Read what i wrote and reply to that instead of replying to whats in your head .

              It is totally uncontroversial that Polynesian’s voyaged at least within a triangle between NZ Hawaii and Rapa Nui even going as far south as the Auckland islands .
              The distances involved are not that that much less than those needed to reach Sth America . I did not propose they did such a voyage deliberately merely that circumstance forced a vessel into undertaking such a journey.

              A mono hull displacement vessel is slower than a catamaran due to the physics of wave formation .
              I sailed my heavy displacement yacht at an average speed of 12 kph for 1,000 NM. It would not be hard to more than double that speed in a well found modern cat using the same energy to drive it. .

              Basically a Polynesian voyaging canoe is only two Maori war canoes lashed together with a couple of crab claw sails. Such a vessel involves technology we know they had. Under good conditions 10 kph would be easy achieved by such a vessel for days even weeks on end.
              .

              Using the trades and the westerly’s under 30 sth return sailing 3600km using pervading winds were well within Polynesians knowledge and technology during the voyaging era circa 800 to 1200 CE .No western civilization had the technology to cross oceans before about 1500CE .

              FFS read some links and educate your self.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynesian_navigation
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_maritime_history

            • Duker

               /  27th April 2019

              A triangle ? Covered with smaller islands. Easter island to South America 3600 km and nothing in between. That’s the catch. No evidence of visiting South America , and if they did it was only sweet potatoes they bought back when they had taro already? Of course other plausible suggestions for kumara/sweet potato other than ‘the flying visit’ for that single item.

            • Blazer

               /  27th April 2019

              @Jacqui…but would you take your top off and point your bristols ..windward!

            • Trevors_Elbow

               /  28th April 2019

              “Using the trades and the westerly’s under 30 sth return sailing 3600km using pervading winds were well within Polynesians knowledge and technology during the voyaging era circa 800 to 1200 CE .No western civilization had the technology to cross oceans before about 1500CE .”

              Really so how did the Norsemen reach North America and Greenland then Griff?

            • Griff.

               /  28th April 2019

              Easter island to South America 3600 km and nothing in between.

            • Griff.

               /  28th April 2019

              Yess Trev look at a map mate.
              Europe, Foure islands, Ice Land, Greenland, Canada .
              Longest trip between large land masses Foure islands to Ice Land 420 km Hardly “ocean crossing”.
              Ocean voyaging Polynesians style.
              NZ to nearest land Kermadec Islands small exposed rocky islands with no safe harbor 800km from there to Tonga another 1,000 km.
              Cook islands to NZ. The route for the Polynesian voyages that colonized NZ 2,800 km
              https://www.freemaptools.com/measure-distance.htm

  3. scooter74

     /  27th April 2019

    there’s now some solid evidence, courtesy of chicken bones, ancient human skulls, and language, for a Polynesian connection to Mocha Island, off Chile, and the Santa Barbara region in California. The chicken bones got a lot of publicity: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11987-polynesians-beat-columbus-to-the-americas/

    It would have likely been less difficult for the Polynesians to reach South America from their bases in the Marquesas and Hawai’i than it was for them to get to Aotearoa from the Society Islands. There’s more and more evidence of Polynesians making long-distance return journeys to different parts of their region centuries ago. Last year I visited these remarkable petroglyphs, which suggest an ancient link between Tonga and Hawai’i:

    Click to access 2%20Triangular%20men.pdf

    Duker’s mistaken when he says Polynesians didn’t reach Pitcairn; they left petroglyphs and adzes on the island, but had departed or died by the time the Bounty arrived.

    The article Pete has linked to quotes the quite inaccurate claim that these footprints are the first evidence for human settlement in the Americas before 12,000 years ago. The famous Monte Verde site in Chile is older than that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Verde

    It’s not necessarily a surprise that the earliest traces of human habitation in the Americas might turn up in Chile. It’s quite possible that the first migrants to the continents followed coastal pathways that are now underwater, like the Bering Strait.

    Reply
  4. Duker seems a bit behind on this subject. It’s been decades since the Hokule’a, a boat made from traditional materials and using traditional methods of navigation, began making epic journeys through the Pacific: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C5%8Dk%C5%ABle%CA%BBa

    Radiocarbon dating shows that the Polynesian expansion east from the old Tonga-Samoa heartland was very fast, once it started: https://phys.org/news/2011-01-east-polynesia-colonized-faster-previously.html

    And there’s a good deal of evidence for the Polynesian connection with the Americas. It ranges from the Polynesian chikcen bones on Mocha to the Polynesian-style skulls found in Chile to the Polynesian words in the Mapudungan language, which is spoken by Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people, to the traces of Polynesian technology and words in the Chumash culture of California. This book, which is the product of collaboration between NZ, US, and Chilean scholars, is a good read:

    It would be surprising if the Polynesians got to Pitcairn, Henderson, Rapa Nui, and Mangareva and then didn’t press on over the comparatively short distance to South America.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  27th April 2019

      It’s not a short distances . Pitcairn is further east that Manareva (close to Tahiti) and even from Easter Is it’s 3600 km without any land till the closest point in Peru, even further to Chile

      Make believe cultural connections by using words to fit preconcieved notions doesn’t count…it’s Hokum science where white men from Western universities decide what’s interesting about exotic cultures. But what hooks you is …skull shapes…pleeese the whole idea of race is biological nonsense but you know about …skulls?

      Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  27th April 2019

    15,600-year old footprint discovered in southern Chile

    Shouldn’t think they’ve got much chance of finding him. That trail’s got pretty damn cold.

    Reply
  6. As I say, Duker, I get the feeling you’re out of touch with much of the action in this area. You need to read the research that Lisa Matisoo-Smith and her colleagues compiled in their book. They’ve been working very carefully in a multidsciplinary team that involves craniologists as well as linguists and archaeologists.

    It’s uncontroversial that there are craniological differences between different groups of people, markers which scholars can use to distinguish various groups. For example, about 70% of Polynesians have a quite distinctive jaw, which is often called a rocker jaw. When Matisoo-Smith located some old skulls in a provincial Chilean museum with rocker jaws, and learned they’d been unearthed at Mocha Island, she understandably got excited.

    Comparative linguistics is a very sophisticated field which involves the comparison of large lexicons and the reconstruction of prototype languages – proto-Polynesian, proto-Indo-European, and so on – and the tracing of the relationships of the languages that flowed from them. The presence of key Polynesian words in Mapudungan and Chumash understandably attracts the attention of researchers. So does Chumash aquatechnology, with shows a strong Hawai’ian influence, and differs greatly from the seafaring technologies of neighbouring indigenous American peoples.

    It isn’t just ‘white men’ doing this research. Matisoo-Smith’s team drew on universities and museums in Chile, the US, and NZ, and peoples from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

    I don’t know why you think that the distance of 3,600 km would have challenged Polynesians, when they had currents on their side, and when they made similar journeys further west in the Pacific, sometimes against currents and winds. It is nearly three and a half thousand kilometres from Rarotonga to Aotearoa, for example. The Foa petroglyphs I visited last year are powerful evidence for journeys from Ha’apai to Hawai’i centuries ago, journeys that would have involved crossing vast amounts of empty ocean.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th April 2019

      Not 3500 km from rarotonga to NZ , its 2800km, and its 1800 km if you traveled via Tonga
      Your facts are all out of kilter. Try google maps to improve your knowledge
      Raoul Is , the main island of the Kermadecs is about half way between Tonga and NZ
      1000km to NZ and 900 km to Tonga.
      Migratory birds would have been part of the polynesian navigation. Unfortunately none fly from Polynesia to South America, but may have lead pathways more northerly to Hawaii, helped like a trip to NZ and arc of islands making stops feasible ( Kirbati , Johnson atoll etc)

      Ill repeat again from Easter Island is zero stopovers for 3600km till closest part of South America. Thats a mostly direct line following earths curvature , sailing doesnt do that unless using auto navigation in Griffs boat ! Actual distance with winds and currents would be even longer
      Its 10,800 km from NZ to Peru.

      Reply
      • scooter74

         /  28th April 2019

        I’m not sure what sources you are using Duker, but you are wrong when you claim birds dont fly from Polynesia to South America, just as you got Pitcairn and craniology wrong. Birds do fly all the way from here to South America, like the black petrel and the royal albatross.

        One aspect of the evidence on Mocha I didnt mention is the island’s hoard of Polynesian adzes. Intriguingly, they are closest in type to those used by early settlers, proto Moriori, on the Chathams. So some scholars think it is just possible that Mocha was settled directly from the Chathams. That truly would have been an epic journey, one of the most extreme in history, but there is compelling evidence that the Marquesas were settled directly from Takuu, which would have involved a journey of similar magnitude.

        I suppose the distance we give from Rarotonga to NZ might vary, according to how we define NZ, but even if we count the Kermadecs as part of NZ I don’t think they would be much use on the way down from the Cooks, because of currents. They certainly would be useful on the way home, and indeed we find nz obsidian there, indicating maori visited.

        Reply
      • Griff.

         /  28th April 2019

        ROFL
        Ever been to the Kermadecs?
        Unlike you I have.

        ya see I quoted the distance from NZ to the Kermadec islands chain not to Raoul Is.
        Not that an inhospitable small rocky island chain with no shelter or reasonable anchorage and little opportunity to land exposed in the middle of the open pacific ocean would do you much good as a stop over any way.

        As to nothing between Easter and Chile
        Wrong again .

        “Actual distance with winds and currents would be even longer”
        Umm no the current and prevailing wind from Easter island run towards the coast of Chile
        As already pointed out to go east when sailing you run under 30 sth to go west you run the trades in the middle the horse latitudes you sit and rock. It is called the horse latitude because boats becalmed run out of water so chucked the horses over board .
        Current ….?

        You have no idea most of the time son .

        Reply
        • scooter74

           /  28th April 2019

          Talking of tiny tricky islands north of NZ, did you stop at ‘Ata, Griff, on your travels? I wrote a book about the slave raid on that island but never actually got there! I dont think I would have survived, to be honest.

          Reply
          • Griff.

             /  28th April 2019

            And FWIW
            Scooter is extremely knowledgeable about pacifica.
            You would be a fool to argue with him about any detail of Polynesia just as you would be to argue Christianity with Kimbo.

            No I did not get any further than Fiji .
            When you take away the tourist polish The islands with their poverty, corruption pollution and environmental degradation are not as nice as NZ for cruising.
            The peploe however were amazing and we made some firm friends and had some awesome experiences like drinking Kava all night with the local chiefs during one of their inter island rugby competitions.

            Reply
  7. scooter74

     /  28th April 2019

    For a really radical take on first human settlement of the Americas, check out this recent and controversial study, which claims that at least a handful of humans were in California 130,000 years ago. If the study’s findings are accurate, then the humans may well have been Denisovans or Neanderthals rather than homo sapiens. But the evidence is still pretty thin:

    But what I find most intriguing is the recent revelation, courtesy of DNA, that Denisovans reached Melanesia, and interbred there with homo sapiens:
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2198349-we-may-have-bred-with-denisovans-much-more-recently-than-we-thought/

    We also now know that another species of human made it to Luzon, an island that was never connected to Asia by a land bridge:

    It seems the Denisovians as well as the Luzon humans were able to cross significant bodies of water. The Denisovans must have gotten across the Wallace Line, a major biogeographical barrier. This fact, along with the exquisite jewellery they were making 70,000 years ago in Siberia, makes me think they were a pretty ‘advanced’ group of humans. Why the became extinct, and how far into the Pacific they got, is such an intriguing mystery.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th April 2019

      Marks on mammoth bones isnt evidence of humans, its evidence the bones were scored, corroborating evidence is required for those , ie clearly smashed bones or burnt from fire etc. to link to humans.

      Reply
      • scooter74

         /  28th April 2019

        As the article I linked to states, Duker, these bones were smashed – that is what caused the excitement. But the notion that humans lived in America 130 000 years ago is so wild Im sure more evidence will be required to win over scholars at large.

        Reply

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